Gris

Yep, I’m still here. I have just woken up from a 5-month Fire Emblem induced coma, having done what I said I wouldn’t and finishing all three routes (the fourth I am saving for a Girls Only stream to come in the near future). But 400 hours later I awoke to the stark realisation that other video games still exist and, somehow, my backlog has grown by about 15 titles. And so I played Gris.

I struggle with artistic media, games included. The sort of thing that is open to interpretation and has occluded or indefinite meaning, or is steeped in metaphor and tells not a narrative story, but an emotional one. There is, of course, absolute merit in such productions, I just often struggle to interface with it- I’m a very literal person and, while I’ll happily enjoy a story told to me, expecting me to infer the story via emotive gestures will often fail to find its mark.

Gris is a story about grief, and starkly so; even I can pick up on that. It feels deeply personal and tells, without words, a journey through an emotion that often defies written description.

The game is absolutely gorgeous, every frame of the animation coming as though being hand-painted directly onto the inside of my screen, and ultimately there’s the rub; I found myself wondering why I was playing video game Gris, instead of watching short animated film Gris.

The story unfolds largely through background elements that pass by as
Gris walks in one direction or the other, sometimes for minutes at a
time.

During these passages my only purpose is to hold the direction button down and watch the world pass as Gris processes her emotions. Occasionally the path is interrupted by a gentle platforming section, and every so often there is a non-functional collectible hidden behind a small challenge. The art and story are such that these gameplay sections feel truly discordant with the narrative being told; sweeping vistas that change and break and create as Gris moves through them are a metaphor for- no, wait, sorry, I have to go back over that bit again, I just saw a sparkly thing and I need to figure out how to get it.

Fin or Bin:

Indeed, the collectibles feel like they were placed in order to justify Gris’ existence as a video game, but it doesn’t need gamifying to be a game; I feel the end product would be much stronger without the achievement-bait and with just the mild platforming elements in place to present Gris with hurdles to overcome. That said, it’s a very impactful piece of art, and regardless of its videogaminess is an experience worth Finishing.

(Steam)

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